Santa Baby..

Following last year’s Christmas list, four(ish) out of five was not bad at all. It does not bother me that I did not receive all the things I wanted on Christmas day per se, as they became treats throughout the year. I received the white gold stud earrings from DH and we went to see Les Miserables for our wedding anniversary. The Mulberry MacBook Pro sleeve and the MacBook Air was dismissed for and even better upgrade and ol’ Lizzie has since become a good friend of mine.

I am not avaricious enough to write endless blog posts detailing each and every item I wish to buy, so similarly to last year, I have narrowed down to my top five most desired items. In no particular order..

1. Mulberry French Purse in Fudge Glossy Buffalo

I would love a matching purse to my Mulberry bag in the same glossy buffalo colour. I would prefer Holly but my current purse is busting with random loyal cards, debit cards, discount cards and whatnot, I fear having a zip purse just would not do. I guess I should think about removing that (probably expired) gym membership card.

2. Generally more clothes

I find it difficult parting with my cash selfishly and am always keen for the money to be spent on DS instead. I also detest paying more for something at retail price, when inevitably it will go on sale. I mean, there is no one item of clothing I am so desperate to have that I cannot wait, or just get over if it is no longer available. Buying into what is in season is just a con – the same item as the previous year with a different bar code. Knitted jumpers in season this year? No one has ever thought of that before.

3. iPhone 4S

I am very much an Apple geek, so it is pretty shocking I do not already own an iPhone. Unfortunately I have another year with the ol’ Android phone, so alas, this will definitely not be in my stocking.

4. prescription glasses

This is an odd one and not really an item ‘wish’ for, just I am too stingy bitter to purchase glasses myself. I have two pairs already I purchased in my first year of university; I did not want two, I bought the second pair upon losing the first, only to find them later in a drawer. What’s worse is that Specsavers managed to get the prescription in both pairs utterly wrong, thus causing me to have a complete lack of spacial awareness when driving, which I think is pretty crucial. I am so bitter about the whole thing, having spent a fair amount of dosh on both pairs. After many years, I am still having a not-so-silent protest about buying my third pair.

5. A Spa

I would have said tickets for the theatre or some kind of gig/concert, but given the fast pace of my life these days, it is not really viable. A holiday would be up there too, but with DS so young and the stress embodied even within the word holiday, I am not sure we could handle the actual thing. Thus I have opted for a spa break just for myself on my wish list. I am in dire need of some pampering and relaxation.

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When East meets Westfield.

After counting down the days for two years, Westfield Stratford City finally opened it’s doors to public yesterday. Needless to say, I was fucking ecstatic. I ventured down after work arriving at around 5:30pm (yes, high speed is FAST). It was chaotic, as I anticipated, with people shuffling through the crowds, some deciding to randomly stop and loiter before shuffling some more. There were an assortment of people, but mainly young locals who had decided to stop by after school for a gander, not really intending on buying anything (hence the loiters). I presume the real hardcore shoppers were there at early doors.

The shops themselves were eerily quiet; the sales assistants were folding clothes with a bored expression on their face as if it was just another day. Obviously with the exception of Primark, which was manic. Strangely the clothes were not sprawled across the floor, as you would find in pretty much every other Primark in the country; a big well done to the sales assistants, that must have been hard to maintain for the full 12 hours they were open.

A not so big well done to the sales assistants in Forever 21, particularly one (I did not catch her name, let’s call her Jane) who was very rude to me. Approaching the fitting rooms with my five items, the assistant led me and another customer to our rooms. Whilst I was following, Jane grabbed me by the arm and stopped me in my tracks. She asked me rather flatly whether I had a ticket, so I informed her the other sales assistant had told me to follow. Disbelievingly, she said ‘but the other customer is with her‘, to which I responded ‘and so am I‘. The other sales assistant turned around and pointed to my cubicle and Jane strutted off without an apology. What a way to start your first day.

Another amusing experience in Forever 21 happened whilst I was browsing. A lady asked me, ‘which top do you prefer?‘. One was bright orange and sparkly, the other was black and equally as sparkly. I responded with the black top, which obviously was an insufficient answer as she pursued in asking another three times. Her reason for this persistence being, ‘you can always trust a Chinese opinion‘. Now I do not wave the racist flag very often and this was a very light-hearted comment, however I found it odd given the circumstance. Imagine if I said the same to her, ‘you can always trust the opinion of a black lady‘. That would be outrageous!

Shaking my head and brushing the awkward conversation aside, I attempted to contact a friend I was meant to be meeting. I quickly discovered that there was not one place in the centre where I could receive a signal on my phone. After attempting to call various people, I went to seek help from the concierge desk. The manager was incredibly helpful and offered me her phone to contact my friend. I could not get through as she was also in the centre and was clearly having the same issues. After attempting to call numerous times to no avail, I shuffled along to Carphone Warehouse to see if they had knowledge of any network problems. The nice, very East London, sales assistant was aware of the issue and informed me that it had been ’13 hours man’ since she last got a text.

At that point I decided to give up on my shopping venture and head back home. Sadly I did not meet the friend in the end, but all in all, my experience was positively interesting. The centre boasts of everything a shopper might want; you have the mainstream stores for a bit of stability and a selection of independent ones to throw in the mix. It is shiny and spacious, the shops are strategically categorised together and you feel at ease. Amazingly Westfield is only a 20 minute train ride for me, so I will definitely be heading back there very soon. Bluewater was once my love, but alas, I have found better…

I survived the Next sale.

I crazily awoke at 4:30AM today, rushed to put my clothes on and hurried out the door in time for the 5AM Next sale. There was a minor hiccup where I spent a good three minutes trying to take the hand brake off, failed, and went back inside the house to shake DH awake to resolve the issue. He wearily stepped outside in his boxers to take the hand brake off with ease, illustrating how weak I really am.

I spent a grand total of £187.50 on two suit blazers, four suit trousers, two shirts and a packet of 6 socks for DH, as well as two shorts and a t-shirt for DS. A bargain to say the least! I was a little disappointed by the kids range, I had intended to buy a lot more for DS but there were a lack of 18-24 months and 2-3 years items. I have not purchased anything for myself as personally I am not a big fan of Next for women, unless it is office wear. The Next sale is a selfless venture of mine for my boys. Though it is a shame I have to return the suits and shirts; I stupidly misheard DH’s shirt size when I asked him yesterday and have bought completely the wrong sizes. D’oh.

Over the years I obsessively await the Next sale in hope of bagging a bargain. As said in my previous post, I am tremendously bitter to spend more than I feel an item is worth, especially when I know the price will be halved in a couple of months. I like to think I have perfected my Next sale strategy, as that is exactly what it is, a sort of military plan in action. It is impossible to arrive at the doors intending to play it by ear; you either end up with five plastic bags full of clothes you do not need, sitting on a sofa in Homewear and draping all your unwanted items over the armrest, or you have had a wasted journey and come home empty-handed.

To avoid all the unnecessary stress of a Next sale, I have compiled a list of ‘Must-Do’s’ to keep you prepared:

1. Make a list of priority items and ensure you have the necessary sizes written down for each member of your family.

2. Do consider clothing for the long-term, not only clothes you need right now. During sale season, I often buy DS’ clothes well in advance to avoid ridiculously overpriced items. It is not worth buying children’s clothing at extortionate RRP prices when they are only worn for a few months.

3. When planning your priority list, bear in mind the specific items that sell out first (men’s suits, boxers and socks, women’s pyjamas, all of Kidswear).

4. Plan to arrive as soon as possible to be one of the first customers through the doors. Next advertise their opening time as 5AM, but they can open earlier if there are enough people waiting.

5. Sharpen your elbows. At 5AM anything goes, if you are not prepared you will most probably get run over by a violent mother with a pram.

6. Note to mothers and wives – Do not bring your children or husband. This is not a playground, nor is this a family affair. There are often fathers standing in the corner, clutching an array of bags bursting, with their children rubbing their eyes and wondering what they did to deserve this.

7. Bringing a friend, or someone who is not male and is childless, may be handy in splitting the priority list.

8. Do not dilly-dally, that is time wasting. The queue for the tills are usually huge at around 6AM, an hour after the store has opened, as that is generally how long it takes to thoroughly raid the rails of each department. 40 minutes is around the maximum time before the queues start building, so you should consider purchasing the items you have already picked up and neglect any further impulses.

9. Check out the tills in the Mens department first as they are usually empty. The second option is Homewear, but if that fails, just settle. It is just not worth venturing to Ladieswear or Kidswear.

10. Make sure you check your receipt as sometimes the discounts are not applied. This can be easily missed if you are bulk buying.

Happy shopping :)

Strike a Bargain.

I think I become a little obsessive when it comes to getting the best deal. I refuse to pay more than I think an item is worth, considering how the majority of our hard-earned cash is spent feeding these capitalist pigs who make the world go round. It is sickening, yet I buy into it because I am materialistic and I do value inanimate objects. I also need to survive so thank God for EDF, Southern Water and Morrisons.

One to avoid - Although I like bargain hunting, I do not like second hand goods.

When seeking an item I wish to purchase, I almost make it a goal of mine to get the best price for it. For example, our Gaggia Baby coffee machine we recently bought (see previous post) sold at John Lewis for £209.95, offers the standard 2 year guarantee plus an extra year at the cost of £28. As you may know, ‘never knowingly undersold‘ is a policy John Lewis upholds; if you find the item cheaper in another high street store, they will match it. However, after much research I discovered a family business based in Dorset called the Hart of Stur who also sold the same item for £199.95, including £35 worth of Gaggia goods – Gaggia espresso cup and saucer, a milk jug,  a milk thermometer and Gaggia coffee. It was even better as Hart of Stur‘s coffee machine came in black, to match the rest of our kitchen appliances.

Another good find of mine, which you may or may not be interested in, is Sky Rewards. Every Monday they offer £3 adult tickets for any showing of any film at O2 Cineworld in Greenwich; for two adults, obviously adding up to £6, saved us £17 on the original price. I discovered this a few weeks ago and have been waiting patiently to order my tickets a week prior to the showing of Harry Potter in 3D. Being a bit of a Harry Potter geek, I have been eagerly anticipating this since Part 1 a year ago, which did not make it to 3D in time for the release date.

Being such a keen bargain hunter does not always have good outcomes. Last week whilst browsing through the rails at Primark, I found a dress in the sale for a mere £2. At the time, I remember laughing to myself that only in Gravesend would you have 6 and 8 the only sizes remaining in a sale; all the obese freeloaders must have bagged all the rest of the sizes (bearing in mind that Primark goes up to a size 22). As I thought it was such an impressive find, I did not hesitate in buying the dress. A few days later in the queue at Morrisons, I recognised a distinct pattern on the dress of a large woman in front of me. After a few seconds I looked down at myself, stared back at the woman, only to realise that we were wearing the same Primark dress. I was horrified to say the least. I am glad she did not notice me, as I am not sure who would have been more embarrassed.

WARNING: Consider all consequences that may arise as a result of a bargainous purchase.